Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Why Beets?

Did you know that one-third of the world’s sugar supply comes not from sugar cane, but from a special variety of beets known as the sugar beet? Beets also have the distinction of being very rich in red pigment, and they’ll stain your hands if you’re not careful. In fact, borscht, a traditional Russian soup, is colored red with beet juice… 

Beets 101
Beets are both sweet and earthy tasting and pair well with other root vegetables as well as with tangy-sweet fruits like pineapple. While most beets are deep red in color, there are a number of beet varieties that range in color from white to yellow to red.  There’s even one variety, known as the Chioggia beet, which has red and white concentric rings.

Beets come to us from the Chenopodiaceae family and are related botanically to spinach. In fact, one variety of beets is known as the spinach, or leaf beet. It is grown for its greens, which are actually more nutritious than the root itself.

Selection, Storage & Cooking 
Beets are available both canned and fresh at your grocer’s market.  However, fresh beets are considered to be crispier and more flavorful.  If you’re shopping for fresh beets, choose smaller beets over larger, tougher beets, and pass over any beets that are cracked, shriveled or look very dry. If the beet greens are still attached to the root, they should be crisp-looking and not at all wilted or slimy.

Baby beets are available in some specialty and farmer’s markets and are considered a delicacy for their tenderness and delicate flavor.

Once your beets are home, you can refrigerate them in a perforated plastic bag, separate from the greens, for up to three weeks. Greens will only last for a few days in the refrigerator and should be used right away. Wash both the roots and leaves before using to remove any soil still clinging to them.

You can either enjoy your beets raw on salads or sandwiches or cook them in any variety of ways, including boiling, baking, sautéing with other vegetables, or even pickling. Beets should be cooked with their peel on to preserve nutrients and to prevent their deep red color from leaking out, which turns them brown, making them unappetizing in appearance. You should also leave about half an inch of the stem on while cooking so that the pigment doesn’t leak out of the top.

Adding an acidic food to the pot can also help preserve the color of the beets. Both lemon juice and vinegar work well for this purpose. Once your beets are done cooking, peel the skin off while wearing gloves, unless you don’t mind having your hands stained a deep red.

Nutritional BenefitsBeets are a great source of folate, the b-vitamin known for its role in preventing birth defects in growing fetuses. The root of the beet is also a good source of iron, potassium and magnesium, although an abundance of nutrition actually lies in its leafy greens.

A half-cup of beet greens, cooked, supplies upwards of 92% of your daily need for vitamin A (as beta-carotene). Beet greens are also higher in potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamin B6 than the root.  However, if it’s the folate you’re after, stick with the root, which supplies 17% of the RDA for this nutrient; beet greens only offer 2.5%.

Here are nutritional facts for one-half cup of beets:
  • Calories: 37 
  • Fat: 0 
  • Carbohydrates: 8g (2g dietary fiber) 
  • Protein: 1g 
  • Nutrients and RDAs: 20mg magnesium (6%-7%); 32mg phosphorus (4.5%); 1mg iron (10%); 3mg vitamin C (5%); 68mcg folate (17%) and 259mg potassium (8%-13%). There is no RDA for potassium, but adults need about 2,000-3,000mg a day. 

Ready to serve up some nutritious beets? 


Sometimes beets in the market have beautiful, unblemished, tender greens attached. When that happens, blanch the greens and toss with beans and vinaigrette, using some of the beets to garnish the salad, as in this recipe. Use the leftover cooked beets for other dishes. If you buy beet greens on their own, you can make the salad just with them. Either way is delicious.
Beets & Greens Salad with Cannellini Beans

Beets & Greens Salad with Cannellini Beans


  • 2 bunches beets with unblemished greens, or 8 cups lightly packed beet greens 
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar 
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, or 2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves, minced 
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 1 15-ounce or 19-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed 
  • 1/4 cup thinly slivered red onion, (1/2 small onion) 


dotted line divided
If using beets, preheat oven to 400°F. Cut greens from beets, leaving about 1 inch of stem attached; reserve about 8 cups greens, lightly packed. Wash and dry the beets. Wrap in foil and roast until tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size. (Alternatively, place beets in a microwave-safe dish, add 1/4 cup water, cover and microwave on high for 20 to 25 minutes.) When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel 4 of them and cut into 1/2-inch wedges. You should have about 2 cups. Place in a medium bowl. (Reserve the remaining beets for another use.)
Using a mortar and pestle or the side of a chef’s knife, mash garlic and salt into a paste. Transfer to a large bowl. Add vinegar and whisk to blend. Add oil, oregano and pepper, whisking until blended. Measure out 1 tablespoon and add to the beet wedges; toss to coat. Add beans to the remaining dressing and toss to coat. Let marinate at room temperature until ready to use.
Place onion in a small bowl, cover with cold water and add a handful of ice cubes; let stand for 10 minutes, or until ready to use.
Meanwhile, bring 2 cups lightly salted water to a boil in a large wide pan. Wash beet greens in several changes of water; trim the stems. Add the greens to boiling water, cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well, pressing on the greens with the back of a spoon to remove excess moisture. Cut into 1-inch pieces.
Drain the onion. Add to the beans along with greens; toss to coat. Spoon the salad onto a serving platter or individual plates and garnish with the beets, if using. Serve immediately.



Soaking the onion in ice water for 10 minutes or more renders it less pungent and more crisp.

Monday, February 9, 2015

How to Read Food Labels

(Photo: Tumblr)
No, you’re not the only one in aisle seven who doesn’t know the difference between pesticide-free and organic.
Navigating the grocery store can be mind-boggling even for smart, health-conscious women. Sure, there are terms like cage-free and grass-fed to look for, but what do those labels actually mean, and is anyone regulating their use?
The most important thing to remember about these labels is that they are legally defined by our government in the USDA or the FDA, but they are not regulated. If you claim you are producing antibiotic-free poultry, you can slap that on your package, but no one’s going to check it. That’s pretty scary.
In case your healthy head is spinning, here are the most common terms you’ll find on food labels. Here’s what they really mean and who is (or isn’t) regulating whether the manufacturer is being totally honest.
1. Whole grain. This label is found on grain-based products, like bread, with independent third-party verification through the Whole Grains Council. It means that “the entire seed” is the grain ingredient, not a refined version that is stripped of nutrients, which is a good thing. But there’s a caveat: if the seal just says “whole grain,” it indicates there are at least eight grams of whole grain ingredients, not that it’s totally whole grain. Look for the “100 percent whole grain” seal to go all the way.
2. Pastured/Pasture-raised. You’ll see it on eggs, chicken breasts, and even ground beef. However, there is no verification system that something is “pasture-raised” and the USDA actually has no definition for it “due to the number of variables involved in pasture-raised agricultural systems.” While Animal Welfare Approved will sometimes verify something as “pasture-raised,” it is “a potentially meaningless term.” In other words, don’t pay extra for it.
3. Cage-free. Also found on poultry and eggs, there is no verification system for this label, either. The USDA cites that cage-free “indicates that the flock was able to freely roam” but since there’s no way to prove that, this one is meaningless, too. Basically, the only way to ensure that the chicken had a lovely life with plenty of exercise is to buy straight from a farmer you trust or research a brand. If you’re worried about the chickens eating GMO corn or being contaminated with antibiotics, look for the USDA certified organic seal.
4. Fair trade. This refers to “any non-animal edible” from bananas to tea and is verified by several organizations like Fair Trade InternationalInstitute for Market EcologyEcosocial, and Fair Trade USA. And while they each use slightly different criteria, they all check for better working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for producers likely to be exploited. So, if you’re shopping with a social conscious, this is actually a safe one to lean on. Products can be 100 percent fair trade or have more than 20 percent fair trade ingredients, and it isn’t always easy to tell which, so you’re better off buying single-ingredient fair-trade products like coffee.
5. Grassfed. For cattle, sheep, goats, and bison, “grassfed” is defined by the USDA as “grass and forage being the feed source consumed for lifetime,” which is a pretty solid definition except it does permit some “incidental grain supplementation.” So if you’re a stickler for making sure the cow really never ate a kernel of corn, you can trust the third-party verifiers on this—look for a stamp from the American Grassfed Assocation, Animal Welfare Approved, or Food Alliance organizations. And don’t be fooled by the term “grass-finished" which is loosely defined and unverified. 
To help you deal with this massive loophole, here are useful definitions for food label lingo and introduces you to third-party organizations verifying some of the terms, like Animal Welfare Approved or the Non-GMO Project, who will stamp their label on products if they meet their standards. You can trust most of these third party verifiers, but you have to understand what their standards are; they may not live up to what you expect from your food.
~Thanks to Jamie McKillop

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

15 Serious Lack of Vitamin D Warning Signs

Muscle Weakness

Muscle weakness is usually caused by a Vitamin D deficiency. Muscles have Vitamin D receptors. They must have a constant supply of Vitamin D to function. If your body has a deficiency of Vitamin D your muscles will have trouble functioning as stated by the National Institutes of Health.

Muscle Weakness

Bone Pain

Shunning the sun and being lactose intolerant can leave you with a deficiency of Vitamin D. This can lead to bone pain. According to the National Institute of Health, this subtle symptom it can be a serious sign of a lack of Vitamin D.

Bone Pain
Constant Respiratory Problems

Studies show that Vitamin D may help defend against respiratory illness. This is especially true in children.

Constant Respiratory Problems

Sweaty Head

Years ago doctors used to ask new mothers if their heads were sweating more than normal. NDHealthFacts claims that the reason for this is because it is a tell-tale sign of a lack of Vitamin D is a sweaty head.

Sweaty Head


According to the Vitamin D Council, this essential nutrient helps your brain's neurotransmitters produce the fluid serotonin. This produces our feelings of happiness. Studies have linked low levels of Vitamin D with episodes of depression. Especially during the winter months, because of the lack of sun during that time of year.


Chronic Infections

The Mayo Clinic has advised that Vitamin D is crucial to our body's health. It is a necessary vitamin in helping our body fight infections. If you notice you or your child is prone to getting infections, you might want to ask your doctor to give you a Vitamin D blood test.

Chronic Infections

Cardiovascular Disease

Articles published by the National Institutes of Health have shown that deficiencies in Vitamin D can lead to congestive heart failure. Make sure your body maintains the proper amounts to guard against the risk. Home tests are available to check if have a lack of Vitamin D.
Cardiovascular Disease

Chronic Pain

Studies have shown that low vitamin D levels impact a person's chances of having chronic pain. People with darker skin are more prone to these effects.
Chronic Pain


Vitamin D is one of the necessary vitamins for your body to create energy. Without it you can end up feeling tired most of the day. This will make it hard for you to get around or even get to work. You should consult your doctor if you have constant feelings of tiredness.



Although psoriasis is not always caused by a lack of Vitamin D, it's used in treatment. The Mayo Clinic claims that if you have a lack of the Vitamin D it will be harder for your body to defend itself against psoriasis.



Harvard University conducted a study on women. The study showed that women with low levels of Vitamin D have a 67 percent increased risk of hypertension. If you suffer from anxiety you may want to consider purchasing Vitamin D supplements and adding them to your daily routine.


Chronic Kidney Disease

Kidneys are necessary to making the active form of vitamin D for our bodies. People who suffer from chronic kidney disease lack Vitamin D according to studies done at the Mayo Clinic.
Chronic Kidney Disease


Vitamin D also affects the levels of serotonin in your brain, which is what impacts your mood. If you're feeling cranky, it might be because you're not producing enough serotonin!


Reduced Endurance

If you're an athlete and you're seeing your endurance decay for no apparent reason, it might be because you have low vitamin D levels. Get enough vitamin D to stay in your top performance level.

Reduced Endurance

You're 50

If you're 50 or older, chances are you have a vitamin D deficiency. The body simply doesn't produce as much vitamin D as you get older, and so you should always make sure you're getting enough vitamin D through other sources.

You're 50

~Thanks to answers.com

Blog Archive